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Obituary: Dana Jacobs Lehman

Dana Lehman, dedicated wife, mother of three and friend to many, and member of the Great Neck community for over 50 years, died at her home in Floral Park on Nov. 23, 2010, at age 92. Her life was a successful combination of love of family with an active public life of social commitment. As one of the principal organizers of Great Neck Peace Week in 1962 and again as initiator and chair of the Woman’s Action Committee of Womanspace of Great Neck, Mrs. Lehman brought together a wide range of voices, always believing that through dialogue and interaction, people, communities and societies could work toward greater social justice and worldwide peace.

Born and raised in the Bronx, Dana Lehman graduated from Hunter College in 1939. She married Jesse Lehman in 1940 and moved to Great Neck in 1950. While raising three children, she served on the PTA at her children’s school and also as a member of the Citizen’s Advisory Committee to the Great Neck Board of Education. During these years, she was also president of the Harbor Chapter of Women’s American ORT and editor of its newsletter.

Pursuing her interest in education and social change, Dana Lehman enrolled in graduate school at NYU in educational sociology. She received her master’s degree in 1966 and continued her studies in human relations as a recipient of a Felix W. Warburg Scholarship. During this time, she worked as a research analyst studying the youth program of the National Council of Christians and Jews. She co-authored a Carnegie Corporation report on New Directions for the Brooklyn Institute of the Arts and Sciences and was a teaching assistant and instructor in the Department of Educational Sociology.

Beginning in the 1970’s, Mrs. Lehman became an active member of Womanspace of Great Neck, ultimately serving as co-director and then director. She created and chaired the Woman’s Action Committee, engaging in non-partisan political action to protect and expand women’s rights. The committee established an annual Mother’s Day tradition, “Mothers by Choice,” a tabling event intended to educate the public about the threats to women’s right to choice, and frequently joined in national efforts by participating in rallies and lobbying activities in Albany and Washington, DC. As director of Womanspace, Dana Lehman spearheaded the formation of a coalition of 13 women’s organizations in Nassau County.

In addition to her work in Womanspace, she was a board member of the Great Neck/Manhasset Childcare Partnership. In 2006, she received a citation for her contributions from Assemblyman Thomas DiNapoli. Mrs. Lehman was also an active board member of Planned Parenthood of Nassau County, where a Political Advocacy Internship was created in her name, and for which she was honored in 1998 with the Beatrice McClintock Award for Advocacy. JoAnn Smith, now president of PPNC, wrote: “Your efforts have truly made a difference – and you continue to make an impact – not only for young women, but for men as well. What a testament to your leadership that women and men are carrying the torch of reproductive freedom in your name.”

Dana Lehman brought profound commitment, intelligence and deep personal caring to her public activities and to the people with whom she worked. In her personal life and throughout almost 70 years of marriage to Jesse Lehman, her husband who died in September 2010, she traveled widely with family and friends, entertained generously, embraced a love of art, music and poetry, engaged in vigorous discussions of politics, and enjoyed a lively game of bridge, scrabble and backgammon – all of these with elegance, grace, and a splendid sense of humor. Beyond all these, she will be remembered for the abundance of fresh flowers that always filled her home.

She is survived by her children, Peggy Curchack, Ellen Dohmen and Jonathan Lehman; granddaughters, Laurie Dohmen and Alison Lehman Hori; sons-in-law, Mark Curchack and William Dohmen; six great-grandchildren; sister Hilda Liff; brother and sister-in-law Elliot and Frances Lehman; and many nieces, nephews, and very dear friends.